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OPEN STOPE EXPOSURE TIME AND STOPE DILUTION

J. Wang+, D. Milne+, M. Yao++, G. Allen++ & G. Capes+

+
University of Saskatchewan
++
Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting Co. Ltd.

ABSTRACT

Unplanned open stope hanging wall dilution is a significant cost for many open stope mining
operations. Significant advances in empirical and analytical approaches for estimating stope
dilution have been made, however, many important factors are still either ignored or assessed in
purely subjective terms.

There are many hard to quantify factors that simultaneously influence opening stability and
dilution. This creates a significant difficulty for determining the influence of a single variable,
such as exposure time, on opening stability. Open stope exposure time has been found to be one
of the important factors that influences overall stope stability and dilution. A study is currently
being conducted to quantify many of the factors influencing open stope dilution. The assessment
of a large comprehensive case history database of Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd.
(HBMS) operations forms the basis of this study.

This paper presents the findings of a study on the influence of stope exposure time on open stope
dilution. The study is based on applying existing empirical stope dilution prediction methods to
the extensive HBMS database. Minimising stope mucking time has been recognised as a method
to significantly reduce stope dilution. Factors which influence hanging wall dilution, such as drill
and blasting methods as well as undercutting the hanging wall, have been applied to reduce the
scatter in the database.

Empirical design techniques based on rock classification attempt to relate opening stability to
stand-up time, however, these approaches have not frequently been applied to the mining
industry. Data from a stand-up time graph have been interpreted in terms of an equivalent
average depth of hanging wall slough and compared to the HBMS database findings. To add to
the existing HBMS database, several stope case histories have been taken from Geco mine.
These cases include data from very large open stopes with long exposure times. Data from all
three sources suggest that hanging wall slough increases between .14 and 0.3 metres per month
for a rock mass Q value between about 4 and 13.

1. INTRODUCTION

Open stope dilution is one of the main factors which significantly increases mining costs. The
dilution from a stope not only reduces ore grade, but also increases costs associated with handling
additional material. There are many different methods used for determining percent dilution for a
stope. To avoid possible confusion, dilution in this study is defined as average metres of slough
or failure of waste rock off of the stope walls. Clark and Pakalnis (1997) introduced a term called
ELOS (Equivalent Linear Overbreak Slough), which is the average metres of slough from stope
walls. This study focuses on hanging wall slough or average metres of overbreak from hanging
walls.

Many empirical and analytical approaches have been developed to estimate stope dilution and
approaches have been followed to minimise dilution. Many variables which influence rock mass
performance and stope dilution are still either ignored or assessed in purely subjective terms.

Many factors can simultaneously affect stope stability and dilution. Figure 1 presents some of
the identified major factors that influence the open stope stability and dilution. The rock mass
quality and opening characteristics are factors that are well assessed in the existing stability
designs techniques (Mathews, 1980, Potvin, 1988, Nickson, 1992) and dilution design methods
(Pakalnis, 1986, Clark and Pakalnis, 1997, Clark, 1998). A project is being conducted with the
University of Saskatchewan and Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting (HBMS) to quantify the
influence of undercutting as well as stress and blasting on open stope hanging wall stability and
dilution (Wang et al, 2002). The project study also found that open stope exposure time is
another important factor that has significant influence on stope stability and dilution.

An analysis of the HBMS database suggests a trend showing the importance of open stope
exposure time on hanging wall slough. Other approaches which consider the influence of time on
stability, such as the RMR (Rock Mass Rating) stand-up time graph (Bieniawski, 1989), are
compared to the influence of time estimated from the HBMS database. Several stope case
histories taken from Geco mine have also been assessed. Further work is ongoing to attempt to
confirm the statistical validity of the trend.

2. BACKGROUND

There are many variables that simultaneously influence open stope hanging wall overbreak,
which makes these factors very difficult to quantify. Empirical methods have been developed to
quantify several factors which influence open stope dilution and the most commonly used
approach looks at the ELOS (Average metres of overbreak) plotted on the Modified Stability
Graph (Clark & Pakalnis, 1997).

2.1 Dilution Graph

Mathews (1980) developed a stability design method, subsequently modified by many


researchers (Potvin, 1988, Nickson, 1992). These empirical techniques provide useful tools for
the mine designer to design safe open stope dimensions based on few input parameters, such as
stability number N and stope wall hydraulic radius. These methods qualitatively assess stope
stability in terms of stable, potentially unstable and cave conditions. This does not allow for an
assessment of the degree of instability to be expressed as expected stope dilution. Dilution
design methods (Pakalnis, 1986, Clark, 1997) attempt to assess the degree of stope instability in
terms of metres of slough or dilution. It is based on the same format as the stability design
methods but has been empirically calibrated so the degree of stability is represented by the
average metres of slough (ELOS) that can be expected to fail from a wall. An estimate of
dilution is determined by plotting the stability number N versus the hydraulic radius of the stope
wall being assessed.

The Stability Number N is determined from equation 1:

N = Q' A B C (1)

where: Q = modified Q classification


A = stress factor (0.1 A 1.0)
B = joint orientation factor (0.2 B 1.0)
C = surface orientation factor (2 C 8)

The hydraulic radius is simply the area of the wall under consideration divided by its perimeter.
Q is the NGI classification value (Norwegian Geotechnical Institute rock quality Q) of the rock
mass with the stress reduction factor (SRF), set to 1.0. The stability graph approach is a well-
established tool for estimating the stability of the walls of open stopes. The approach has been
successful in estimating general trends in dilution, as shown in Figure 2. The approach, however,
ignores some factors that are known to contribute to stope dilution and does a poor job of
accounting for some other factors, such as stress relaxation. To improve the empirical approach
for estimating dilution, an extensive database was collected to assess the influence of parameters
not considered in the established Dilution Graph design technique.

2.2 Database

Two summers were spent at HBMS mines collecting field data for the establishment of a
comprehensive database. The database consists of 150 case histories from three of HBMS Co.
Ltd. Mines (Trout Lake Mine, Callinan Mine and Ruttan Mine). The database includes
information on stope geometry (including undercutting), general stope information, rock mass
properties and classification, stope exposure time as well as drilling and blasting data coupled
with Cavity Monitoring System (CMS) survey data showing the degree of stope slough or
unplanned dilution. The exposure time is measured between the main blast in the stope and the
time of the CMS survey, usually conducted at the end of mucking.

An empirical approach has been taken to analyse this data since this general approach is best
suited to take advantage of an extensive database of case histories.

3. STOPE DILUTION DATA ANALYSIS

There are many reasons why the dilution graph method may not be accurate for estimating
dilution at a specific mine. The empirical estimate of dilution is based on the average conditions
encountered by mines in the original study for factors such as stope exposure time, blasting,
undercutting and other parameters not explicitly assessed in the dilution graph. These conditions
at a specific stope or mine may lead to a reduction or an increase in expected dilution, as
compared to the conditions in the original empirical data base.

The dilution graph is very valuable in that it combines many of the factors that are known to
contribute to dilution and represents these factors as a single number or dilution estimate. Instead
of using the dilution graph as an estimate of hanging wall dilution or slough, it is proposed that
the value determined from the dilution graph be called a dilution factor. The dilution factor
would be a reasonable estimate of dilution for the average conditions of stope exposure time,
stress, blasting, undercutting etc., which existed for the original dilution graph database. For
individual stope case histories, these conditions may vary significantly. This will make the actual
stope dilution either more or less than the dilution factor or predicted dilution (ELOS_pred.) from
the dilution graph.

3.1 Dilution Database Analysis

The established database was analysed using the dilution graph method. Figure 3 shows the data
plotted on an enlarged section of the graph. Figure 4 shows the agreement or discrepancy
between the recorded dilution and the dilution predicted from the dilution graph for the HBMS
database. For approximately half of the case histories (70 of 142 available cases), the predicted
metres of slough (ELOS) was within 0.5 metres of the actual measured ELOS. The other half of
the case histories had average metres of slough that disagreed with the predicted metres of slough
by more than 0.5 metres. It is not surprising that there is a significant discrepancy between the
actual and predicted metres of hanging wall slough in many of the cases. The dilution graph
either ignores or poorly accounts for many factors which can significantly influence stope
dilution.

Previous work on the HBMS data base has assessed an influence on stope dilution by factors
such as stope hanging wall undercutting and the drilled blast hole pattern relative to the hanging
wall contact (Wang et al., 2002). It was found that stopes where holes were drilled parallel to the
hanging wall had, on average, approximately 0.7 metres more hanging wall slough than
predicted. For stopes where the holes were not drilled parallel to the hanging wall, slough was
on average, approximately 0.2 metres more than predicted. This finding may show the influence
of blast damage or the influence of blast hole deviation on hanging wall dilution. The influence
of cutting into the hanging wall on the overcut and undercut drift was also assessed. It was found
that, depending on the degree of undercutting, hanging wall slough varied between 0.2 and 1.2
metres in excess of the predicted amount of slough, depending on the degree of undercutting.
Exposure time is another of the factors ignored by the dilution graph that is being assessed for the
HBMS database.

4. INFLUENCE OF STOPE EXPOSURE TIME ON STOPE DILUTION

The influence of time has long been recognised as an important factor for estimating the
performance and stability of a rock mass. Both the Q and RMR classification systems can be
used for estimating tunnel stability and in both systems there is an approach that can be used to
incorporate the influence of time (Barton, 1974)(Bieniawski, 1989). With the RMR system, a
graph has been developed to relate tunnel span, RMR and unsupported stand-up time (Figure 5).
With the Q system, the Excavation Support Ratio (ESR) is used with a graphical design
technique for estimating support requirements. The ESR value is used to reduce the effective
drift span for tunnels which require shorter stand-up times. This results in tunnels with shorter
stand-up times requiring less support. The HBMS database has been assessed to determine the
influence of exposure time on the magnitude of slough. Additional case histories have been
assessed from Geco Mine.

4.1 Influence of Exposure Time on the HBMS Database

For most of the stopes included in the database from HBMS, the stope exposure time ranges from
as little as 4 days to as many as 300 days. Eighty four percent of case histories have a stope
exposure time less than 60 days. Figure 6 shows a stope exposure pie chart.

The stability graph was used to analyse the case histories to determine if an assessment for the
influence of stope exposure time could be determined. The predicted average hanging wall
slough or ELOS, based on the dilution graph, was corrected to account for the influence of
undercutting and blast hole orientation. The resulting predicted ELOS was then subtracted from
the actual recorded ELOS for increasing exposure times. The discrepancy between the actual and
predicted ELOS was compared for increased exposure times and it was found that there was a
general increase in unpredicted ELOS with time (Figure 7). This general trend of increasing
unpredicted ELOS with exposure time indicates that time dependent ELOS increases at a rate of
approximately 0.3 metres a month. There is a great deal of scatter attached to this relationship,
possibly due to factors such us variable geological conditions and other blasting influences not
accounted for in the empirical approaches taken. To add credibility to the trend between ELOS
and exposure time, other studies into the influence of exposure time on stability have been
compared to the trend obtained. Work is also ongoing to determine if the influence of time varies
with the overall hanging wall stability.

4.2 Complementary Data on the Influence of Exposure Time

Lauffer (1958) and Bieniawski (1976) noticed the time-dependent instability in tunnel
excavations. They emphasised the importance of the stand-up time for an unsupported tunnel
span. The stand-up time was defined as the length of time which an underground opening will
stand unsupported after excavation (Hoek and Brown, 1980). It was suggested that the stand-up
time for any given span is related to the rock mass characteristics as defined by the rock mass
rating system (RMR). Figure 5 shows the RMR stand-up time graph as presented by Hutchinson
and Diedrichs (1996). Figure 5 shows that the influence of time on the stability of a rock mass is
much more pronounced for a weaker rock mass (lower RMR value).

The stand-up time graph predicts immediate collapse for a 10 metre tunnel span with an RMR of
44. An RMR of 50 will remain stable for about 3 days and an RMR of 65 will have a stand-up
time of approximately 150 days. The stand-up time relationship can also be expressed as a
reduction in RMR. An RMR of 50 will have the stability of an RMR of 44 after 3 days of
exposure while an RMR of 65 will take 150 days to behave like an RMR of 44. This can be
expressed as a reduction of RMR with time. The reduction in RMR with time can also be
expressed as a reduction in Q with time based on an equation relating RMR and Q (equation 2).
RMR = 9ln Q + 44 (2)

Table 1 shows the influence of exposure time on stability and classification values as indicated
by the stand-up time graph (Figure 5). Table 1 also shows the influence of the initial rock mass
condition on the sensitivity of rock mass behaviour on exposure or stand-up time. The reduction
in RMR or Q with time can be equated to an increase in dilution. For this comparison, a rock
mass condition similar to that found in the HBMS database is used. The Q values for the HBMS
database averaged about 6.3 for Trout Lake Mine and 18.8 for Callinan Mine for an average
value of approximately 13. For a 10 metre span, a Q of 13 would have a stand-up time of
approximately 180 days. Since immediate collapse on the stand-up time graph corresponds to a
Q of 1.0 for a 10 metre span, the reduction in Q with exposure time can be expressed as a rate of
Q reduction of 0.067 per day.

The dilution graph shown in Figure 3 has a significant cluster of data corresponding to a
Modified Stability Number (N) of 10 and a hydraulic radius of 7.0. In this region of the graph,
an increase in dilution from 0.5 metres ELOS to 1.0 metres ELOS can be obtained from a
decrease in the Q classification value built into the N term. In the HBMS database, the average
Q value of 13 corresponds to an N value of 11. A decrease in Q from 13 to 5.9 reduces the N
value from 11 to 7, increasing the estimated ELOS from 0.5 metres to 1.0 metres. Based on
average conditions in the HBMS database, a 0.5 metre increase in ELOS would correspond to an
exposure time of 106 days, based on Q being reduced at a rate of 0.067 per day. Considered
over a 30-day period, this can be expressed as an ELOS rate of 0.14 metres of slough per month
of exposure. This compares reasonably well to the 0.3 metres of ELOS per month of exposure
estimated from the overall HBMS database.

A brief dilution study was conducted at Norandas Geco Mine in 1986 (Milne, 1986). Hanging
wall conditions at Geco mine were worse than average conditions found at HBMS mines. The
average Q value for the Geco hanging wall was 4. This study looked at dilution rates from 8
open stopes where dilution values were estimated from records of tonnes mucked from the
stopes. A very tentative relationship was proposed which suggested dilution was dependent on
the hydraulic radius of the stope hanging wall and the exposure time expressed in months. The

Table 1
Influence of Stand-up Time on Stability and Effective Classification Values (10m Span)
Based on the RMR Stand-up Time Graph, (Hutchinson & Diederichs, 1996)
Initial RMR Initial Q Time to Immediate Reduction in Reduction in
Collapse (days) Effective RMR Effective Q
44 1.0 0 0 0
50 2.0 3 6 1.0
55 3.4 8 11 2.4
60 5.9 45 16 4.9
65 10.3 150 21 9.3
70 18 300 26 17
75 31.5 730 31 30
database of 8 stopes was exposed between 8 to 65 months and had hydraulic radius values that
ranged between 15.3 metres to 30.5 metres. The recorded dilution ranged between approximately
1.7 metres to 4.6 metres ELOS. The proposed relationship between exposure time and dilution
can be expressed as approximately 0.16 metres of slough per month. This is similar to the 0.3
metres per month exposed estimated for the HBMS database.

5. CONCLUSIONS

This study revealed that stope exposure time is an important factor that can significantly
influence open stope stability and dilution. The HBMS database suggests that dilution increases
at a rate of 0.3 metres of slough per month of exposure. Work conducted by Bieniawski, (1989)
suggests that the influence of exposure time on rock mass behaviour increases as the rock quality
decreases. For a rock mass similar to conditions encountered at HBMS, the Stand-up time graph
(Figure 5) would indicate approximately 0.14 metres of ELOS per month of exposure. A
database of 8 stopes from Geco Mines indicated a similar influence of exposure time on ELOS
with a rate of 0.16 metres additional ELOS per month.

Work is ongoing to assess the influence of exposure time on dilution. The interdependence of the
exposure time, initial rock mass condition and dilution will be assessed and additional statistical
analysis is planned.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Support for this research project by Hudson Bay Mining and Smelting and the Natural Sciences
and Engineering Research Council of Canada is greatly appreciated.

REFERENCES

1. Bienawski, Z.T. 1976, Rock mass classification in rock engineering, Proceedings Symposium
on Exploration for Rock Engineering, Johannesburg, Volume 1, pp. 97-106.
2. Bienawski, Z.T. 1989, Engineering rock mass classifications. New York: Wiley.
3. Clark, L. and Pakalnis, R., 1997. An empirical design approach for estimating unplanned
dilution from open stope hanging walls and footwalls, CIM AGM, Calgary, Alberta.
4. Clark, L., 1998, Minimizing Dilution in Open Stope Mining with a Focus on Open Stope
Design and Narrow Vein Longhole Blasting. M.Sc. Thesis, University of British Columbia.
5. Diederichs, M. and Hutchinson, D., 1996. Cablebolting in Underground Mines. BiTech
Publishers Ltd. Richmond, B.C.(1996), p.209
6. Diederichs, M. and Kaiser, P., 1999. Tensile Strength and Abutment Relaxation as Failure
Control Mechanisms in Underground Excavations. International Journal of Rock Mechanics
and Mining Sciences 36 (1999) 69-96.
7. Hoek, E. and Brown, E.T. 1980. Underground Excavations in Rock, The Institution of
Mining and Metallurgy, London, p18.
8. Hutchinson, D.J. and Diedericks, M., 1996. Cablebolting in underground mines. BiTech
Publishers Ltd., Richmond, 406 pp.
9. Kaiser, P.K. et al, 1997, Incorporation of Rockmass Relaxation and Degration into Empirical
Stope Design. CIM AGM 1997, Vancouver.
10. Lauffer, H. 1958, Gebirgsklassifizierung fur den Stollenbau. Geologie und Bauwesen,
Volume 24, Number 1, pp. 46-51.
11. Martin, C. D. and Yazici, S. 2000, Using Numerical Models to Quantify Stope Dilution, CIM
AGM 2000, Toronto, ON.
12. Mathews, K.E., Hoek, E., Wyllie, D., and Stewart, S.B., 1981. Prediction of stable excavation
spans for mining below 1000 metres in hard rock, Canada: CANMET, Dept. of Energy,
Mines and Resources, DSS Serial No. OSQ80-00081, DSS File No. 17SQ.23440-0-9020.
13. Milne, D., 1986. Letter Report, Internal Report, Noranda Research Centre.
14. Nickson, S.D., 1992, Cable Support Guidelines for Underground Hard Rock Mine
Operations. M.Sc. Thesis, University of British Columbia.
15. Pakalnis , R.C., 1986. Empirical stope design at Ruttan Mine, Ph.D Thesis, University of
British Columbia.
16. Pakalnis, R., Poulin, R., and Vongpaisal, S., 1995. Quantifying Dilution for Underground
Mine Operations, CIM AGM, Halifax, N.S.
17. Potvin, Y., 1988, Empirical Open Stope In Canada. Ph.D. Thesis, University of British
Columbia.
18. Wang, J., Milne, D., Yao, M. and Allen, G. 2002, Factors Influencing Stope Dilution at
Hudson Bay Mining & Smelting, 5th North American Rock Mechanics Symposium
[NARMS] proceedings.
19. Wang, J., Milne, D., Yao, M. and Allen, G., 2002. Quantifying the effect of hanging wall
undercutting on stope dilution, CIM AGM, Vancouver, British Columbia.
Rock Mass Opening
Quality Characteristics

Open
Stress Stope Other Factors
Conditions Hanging
Wall
2

Exposure Time
Blasting Undercutting

Figure 1. Factors influence open stope stability and dilution

Figure 2. Empirical dilution design graph showing the original case histories used to create the
graph (After Clark, 1998).
10 0 E L OS |act-p red|<0.5
.

E L OS 0 .5<|a ct-
0.5 m pre d|<1 .0
Modified Stability Number N'

E L OS 1 .0<|a ct-
1.0 m pre d|<2 .0

10
E L OS |act-p red|>2.0
2.0 m

E LO S |ac t.-pred.| < 0.5m 70


c as es

E LO S |ac t.-pred.|> 0.5m


1 72 c as es
2 4 6 8 10 12
H R (m )

Figure 3. Case histories plot on partially enlarged Dilution Graph (after Clark, 1998)

n
4.5 t ha n
e o
or icti
4 M ed
pr
3.5

3
Actual ELOS (m)

n
2.5 tha on
ss ti
2 Le edic
pr
1.5

0.5

0
0 0.5 1 1.5 2 2.5 3 3.5 4 4.5
Predicted ELOS (m)
Figure 4. Comparison between actual ELOS and Dilution Graph predicted ELOS on the Database
Figure 5. Stand-up time Guidelines (From Hutchinson and Diedrichs, 1996)

91-120d >120d
(2 cases) (5 cases)
1% 3%

61-90d
(18 cases)
12%

4-30d
31-60d (86 cases)
(37 cases) 59%
25%

Figure 6. Stope exposure time case histories


1.00 0.93
0.90
0.80

ELOS_act.-pred. (m) 0.70 0.64


0.60 0.56
0.49 3 Cas es
0.50 S.D.=0 .8 5
9 Cas es
0.40 1 6 Cas es S.D.=1 .1 8

0.26 S.D.=0 .8 4
0.30 2 6 Cas es
S.D.=0 .9 7
0.20 8 6 Cas es
S.D.=0 .6 8
0.10
0.00
<30 31-50 51-70 71-90 >90
Stope Exposed Tim e (d)

Figure 7. Histogram plot of justified ELOS versus stope exposure time